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League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette issue complaint over “ongoing violations” by Tippecanoe County Board of Elections

 A complaint has been filed against the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)
A complaint has been filed against the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

The League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette and Common Cause of Indiana on Thursday issued a complaint against the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections, alleging “ongoing violations” by the board.

Specifically, the complaint filed with the Indiana Election Division alleges that the Tippecanoe Board of Elections has been requiring some first-time voters provide proof of residence as they register to vote - which the complaint says is a violation of state and federal voter registration laws.

Ken Jones is chair of the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette. He said he’s been assisting high school students in filling out their voter registration and then hand-delivering those registrations to the Tippecanoe Board of Elections.

According to Jones, if a first-time voter registers to vote and files their registration through the mail they are required to provide additional proof of residency under federal and Indiana law .

But, Jones said, because he’s hand delivering the voter registrations that requirement shouldn’t be placed on high school students - especially because they might not be able to provide proof of residence.

“Virtually all of the students who were using a federal voter registration form and using the last four digits of their social security number to register were receiving a follow-up letter demanding this proof of address requirement before their votes would be counted,” he said. “The result is that if you don’t provide this proof of address then your vote will not be counted in an election.”

Between 120-125 seniors in Tippecanoe County are receiving the letters asking for proof of residency, according to Jones.

Jones said the high school students he’s worked with may not have driver's licenses, and don’t have utility or rental bills in their name. He said the Tippecanoe Board of Elections’ automatic requirement for proof of residency amounts to a denial of students' right to cast a vote.

“In the end, if it’s not in the law and yet you demand it in order for them to be able to successfully vote, it doesn’t feel right and worse yet we don’t feel the law supports that practice,” he said.

Jones said that the League has previously notified the Indiana Elections Division about what the Tippecanoe County Board of Elections has been doing. According to Jones, both Republican and Democratic members of the IED have written to the local board of elections notifying them that the additional requirement violates the law.

Jones said he believes that the Indiana Election Division and Tippecanoe County are interpreting the law differently. He said he hopes that the complaint will get them on the same page.

“This isn’t litigation,” he said. “This is an attempt to resolve this question and put it formally before the election officials at the county and state level.”

In a statement, Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush denied the allegations completely, writing that “there has not been a voter registration application in our county rejected due to lack of residency documentation.”

According to the press release, Roush and her team tried to work with Ken Jones “to help him understand the identity requirements.” According to Roush, every single Federal Voter Application brought in by Jones has been processed.

Roush also stated that her staff has encouraged Jones to put contact information onto voter files in case any of the voter applications are illegible.

“Unfortunately, I believe the complaint is founded on a misunderstanding of the registration process as set out in statute in several regards,” Roush wrote.

“We are confident that when the Election Division reviews the matter, those who brought the complaint will have a clearer comprehension of the truth and applicable laws,” she concluded.